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Teacher Tips and Answers

Closely Reading Literature and Poetry

Start your close read by carefully working through the text. Then, you can analyze the work by thinking about the parts of it. You've seen how the 5 W's and H relate to the key parts of any story. Now you'll use these parts to analyze a piece of literature.

Reading Literature

You can analyze literature by focusing on these common elements of stories:

  • Characters Who are the main people involved? Are they protagonists (struggling for something) or antagonists (struggling against something) or supporting characters?
  • Setting Where and when does the literature take place? How do the place and time affect what is happening in the story?
  • Conflict What is the problem that the character faces? How does the conflict arise from the person's desires and fears?
  • Plot What series of events brings the character into confrontation with the conflict? Does the character succeed? How do the events change the person?
  • Theme What does the literature have to say about life in general? What is the deeper meaning of the work?

You'll find these elements not just in works of fiction but also in biography and historical nonfiction. For example, the following reflection by Mark Twain contains all of these elements to one degree or another. Think about them as you read the literature and prepare to answer questions about each part afterward.

Read literature closely.

Closely read the following biographical reflection by novelist and riverboat pilot Mark Twain. Then analyze the literature by answering the questions. Make a copy of this Google doc or download a Word template.

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